As a manager, you have a lot on your plate. From solving an endless number of product issues, to managing finances, to retaining your customer base, there’s plenty on your mind. But no matter how busy you are, you can never forget to prioritize safety in the workplace.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the world, safety has become a priority for companies across the country. And that’s a great thing! When you have a safe and satisfied workforce, their satisfaction will transfer over into how they help your customers. What’s more, you’ll also retain staff longer and save some money along the way. Let’s take a look at the importance of prioritizing safety, and what you can do today to create a more positive work environment.
The Importance of Prioritizing Safety
Don’t assume your employees are being safe on the job. Be proactive in creating a healthy work environment. This means laying down ground rules and practicing what you preach. Upper management needs to set the tone and communicate directly to staff. Moreover, management and human resources should have an open-door policy so employees can express their concerns and know they’ll be heard and action will be taken to right any wrongs.
In addition to not wanting your team to get hurt, there are many other benefits to a happy and healthy workforce. For one, employees who are happier at work tend to stay at the company longer because they know the organization has their backs. On top of this, they’re also typically more productive. When your employees are safe and cared for, they’re happy to be at their job and they don’t see it as a chore. If they know their company cares, good employees will also refer qualified friends and your organization becomes that much more productive.
There are cost-savings associated with a safe work environment. If an employee gets hurt at work, it impacts your corporate reputation and causes a ripple effect of costs that could have been avoided with better policies. First, there are the medical expenses and potential worker’s compensation claims. If negligence was involved, there may also be OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) fines. On top of all this, if it’s a serious injury, the employee will likely need time off, which means a pause in their daily production. Worst-case scenario, if the employee can no longer work, you’ll have the costs associated with recruiting, hiring, and training a replacement.
Managers should take the time to research safety guidelines and requirements in their state to ensure they are up to code. If you don’t have one yet, consider getting your Master of Business Administration degree. Just about any MBA program will provide you with real-world case studies and experience that will provide insight into how your company can become safer, along with a number of other crucial areas for improvement.
Prioritizing Physical Safety
To keep a safe workforce, continuous training is key. When you bring new hires into the company, safety should be a large part of their initial training. All employees should be required to sign off on what they learned so they can be held accountable and the company can stay protected if an employee is injured while being negligent.
On top of the initial training, managers should have team huddles whenever a new safety concern comes up. By maintaining constant communication, your staff will see that management truly cares about their well-being.
It’s important to remember that just because most white collar jobs are completed in an office, it doesn’t mean there aren’t environmental hazards that can cause harm if an employee is not aware. To prioritize the physical safety of your staff, proper signage should always be placed near spills, legible labels must be placed on potentially hazardous cleaning chemicals, and illuminated signs should be placed over exit routes so they’re visible in case of an emergency.
Put some thought into your signage so it is accessible to all employees. Make it a habit to use bright colors and large lettering. Pair braille wording with visual signs. During online safety training, ensure there are subtitles or a speech-to-text option so everyone gets the same message.
One positive aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it’s shed light on the necessary precautions all companies should take to ensure their employees don’t get sick when it’s preventable. Business managers should make sure employees aren’t grouped together too tightly and that soap and hand sanitizer dispensers are located around the office, especially in highly populated areas like bathrooms and the breakroom. These precautions should continue even after COVID-19 has come and gone.
When it comes to safety, we almost always instinctively think about physical danger. However, mental health is just as important for employee wellbeing. Overworked and exhausted employees are prone to mistakes and more likely to call out sick. This not only leads to physical risks, but the lack of productivity also affects your bottom line. The first step to promoting positive mental health around the office is listening to your employees and being there for them when they need help.
If an employee’s behavior is out of character — a more anxious or fatigued demeanor, a new issue with absenteeism, or difficulty working or concentrating — their manager should reach out to ascertain what’s going on and ask how they can help. If the employee isn’t comfortable speaking to management, then provide a path for them to talk to HR or a mental health professional.
To prevent mental health issues, business managers should create a work environment that provides the proper work-life balance. This helps employees remain engaged when they’re in the office. For instance, many working parents struggle with getting their kids ready for school each morning while also dealing with the stress of work. If you can offer a modified schedule where the employee is able to start later in the day and still complete their tasks, then consider doing so.
By prioritizing safety, managers can create a positive work environment that will keep their teams safe while also protecting the bottom line. Try the tips discussed here and you‘ll see a world of difference in your workforce.
By Indiana Lee, BOSS contributor